Aromatherapy & Essential Oil Safety Practices

Aromatherapy & Essential Oil Safety Practices

Although aromatherapy is a very special ancient modality that provides immense therapeutic value, you still must apply good safety measures and common sense. This will help you to avoid misuse and unsafe results. The top 4 key practices to follow are:

  1. Aromatherapy responsibly
  2. Know your sensitivities and health challenges
  3. Abide by safety contraindications and safety precaustions pertaining to each oil and your own health conditions.
  4. follow proper dilution ratios for health as well as conservation and sustainability.

Respect and Aromatherapy Responsibly

Respecting aromatherapy and essential oil safety is imperative. As with anything you use, educate yourself about what you are using, why you are using it, how to properly use it for what you need and when to use it. With so many companies and brands in the marketplace nowadays, its hard to distinguish what is real from what’s synthetic, half synthetic or genetically modified. In addition to these quality conundrums, safety is also a big concern, as many people who have not received formal aromatherapy training may not be aware that there are numerous concerns, precautions and contraindications to know before you use. Aromatherapy is amazing and a powerful tool to help balance our mind, mood, emotions and physicality. However, as a clinical aromatherapists for over 20 years, I ask that you please be responsible…aromatherapy responsible.

Essential oils can be up to 100 times more potent than its herbal counterpart, thus, much respect should be given and exercised. An important part of every class and course we teach, and during each consult we offer, we train our students and clients to use their scentillect™. Knowing what you need, is half of the equation. The other half is cross-referencing contraindications, allergies, sensitivities, health and skin integrity, age and precautions with precautions with the each essential oil and botanical ingredients you are using.

Safety Guidelines & Contraindications

For me personally and professionally in my phyto-aromatherapy business, I have adopted the safety guidelines presented by the National Association of Holistic Aromatherapy.  To share some of the most important with you, I’ve included the list with some additional safety tips and added thoughts. You can see the full list at

  • Be responsible and educated.
  • Keep essential oils out of the reach of children, pets and those with dementia, Alzheimer’s and other cognitive impairments.
  • Essential oils are fat soluble, not water soluble. Therefore, the best way to use them is to dilute in a fat-based carrier or emulsifier such as coconut or olive oil. Some people are using essential oils neat (undiluted) and may not have experienced an issue, that they know of. Others, may develop a skin irritation, body system imbalances and/or more serious allergies and sensitization.
  • Keep a carrier close by when blending or using essential oils on the skin. If there is an irritation or if it splashes into your eyes, dilute in a fat-soluble base such as olive (or other vegetable) oil, Vegenaise™, milk form or avocado. Do not flush it out with water, as this can make it worse.
  • Use caution and avoid certain essential oils with those having a serious health condition such as heart disease or epilepsy. Refer to the Safety Data Sheet or Contraindication list (check out our Holistic Aromatherapy Comprehensive Guide for a more detailed list).
  • Use caution with dilution ratios, frequency of use and duration of use with respiratory distress and asthma. Essential oils that are stimulants and have drying effect such as eucalyptus, mints, pine, oregano and fir, can cause spasming of the membranes when used improperly.
  • Use caution with highly skin irritant essential oils such as cinnamon, clove, oregano and thyme.
  • Use caution with essential oil exposure during pregnancy, especially in the first trimester and in high-risk pregnancies. Make sure you are educated in the oils you are using, their properties, chemistry and contraindications. Avoid anti-galactagogues while breast-feeding.
  • Citrus essential oils that are cold-pressed are photosensitive or phototoxic. This means that they may cause pigmentation and discoloration to the skin when exposed to direct sunlight (we go into more details in the chemistry section). Therefore, it is recommended to avoid direct sunlight and tanning beds approximately 24-hours after topical application of photosensitizing oils to the skin.
  • Make sure the area you are diffusing oils is well ventilated, especially if you have pets, children or anyone with serious health conditions.

Diluted or Undiluted Use of Essential Oils

There are various schools of thought on this topic. Different aromatherapists and different essential oil companies will tell you their opinion, whether it is from a scientific perspective or a marketing one. Undiluted practices became more popular in the past 10-15 years by a couple essential oil companies. Although it can be OK for some, that is not the case for everybody. And if it is OK for a little bit, it might cause issues due to an accumulative effect, down the road.

I find it best to do a thorough client intake of yourself and the person who will be using it, to understand their anatomy, physiology, health conditions, allergies, sensitivities and potential contraindications before any kind of application, including an undiluted method. Although there is no cookie cutter approach for every single person, there are guidelines you can follow. I have created my own dilution ratio chart based on experience, science, education and chemistry responses.

The problem with undiluted usage, is not using it once or twice here and there. It is a constant practice of using it several times a week or daily that can congest or overtax the receptor sites beneath the skin, oftentimes causing sensitization and/or allergies. Sometimes the allergies can manifest in that particular area of use in the form of a skin irritation. Other times it shows up in an organ imbalance. For example, in the past 5 years, there has been a higher incidence of kidney and renal failure occurring in women between 30 to 40 years of age. One potential factor it has been connected to is the improper ingestion of and/or excessive undiluted usage of essential oils.

It comes down to practicing aromatherapy safely. Using what you need and not overusing in excess, is key. Not only can it potentially harm the body (physiological, psychological and biochemical), it has ecological effects on crops and sustainability. One drop is all you need to elicit a response. Everything else adds to the synergy of that blend and its scent potency. Do what you need and don’t do what you don’t know.

On The Topic of Ingestion: Safe vs. Not Safe

This is a very hot and sensitive topic, depending on who you ask. Since you are reading my blog, I’ll share my two cents.  I am happy to see that more health organizations and aromatherapy trailblazers, such as Salvatore Battaglia, are bringing a light and awareness to this important topic. The Queensland Health Organization in Australia sharing the importance of understanding about essential oil ingestion dangers. As a holistic health educator and clinical aromatherapist for almost 20 years, I get asked this question A LOT from family, friends, students, colleagues and aromatherapy enthusiasts. Inhalation of essential oils has been proven time and again to be the most powerful way to inspire, encourage, activate and balance physiological, psychological and biochemical shifts in the mind and body. Topical applications, as well, are a form of “topical ingestion”. Whatever you put on your skin, absorbs into the bloodstream.

Personally, in my own healing journey and helping others with their health journey, ingestion has not been a practice needed to promote and experience positive, effective and sustaining results. I don’t see the need to use essential oils internally on a regular basis (numerous drops every single day) since inhalation is a more powerful form of implementing aromatherapy. In addition, topical applications are a form of topical ingestion, thus it gets into your bloodstream and delivers a response within the body.  Not to say, there are some instances of a well-formulated and diluted tincture containing properly emulsified essential oils, that can offer some health benefit from well-established integrative centers. There may be certain times, for very specific situations, when properly diluted essential oils may be used internally, such as a severe cough or laryngitis. You are responsible for you. If you choose to use essential oils internally, I recommend you get formal training or work with a highly trained, Professional or Clinical Aromatherapist, or Medical Professional.

With the increase of promoting ingestion of essential oils, I can only hope that one is highly educated and understands the risks and contraindications, as well as the current health state of their anatomy and physiology. Unfortunately, I know this is not the case quite often as the number of calls and emails to me and fellow colleagues have increased about the detrimental consequences one experiences after choosing an uneducated ingestion practice. For example, someone with compromised kidney function or failure, should heed extreme caution with any form of ingestion of essential oils, as the kidneys are an essential organ for excreting them (with all application methods). Not to mention we hold the emotion of fear in the kidneys, so this can be exasperated during times of kidney and urinary system overload. 

Education is key. It is imperative and vital. Not ignorance or arrogance. Aromatherapy practices have been around for thousands of years, and have been done safely for health needs. When unhealthy practices overshadow the true health benefits, intended to enhance quality of life and living, this puts a black eye on the entire industry. For some of us, this is our business, our career, our life’s work and legacy. There is no way to “police” the ethics and standards one chooses to implement in their personal life and business practices. But hopefully, with more education and awareness from our “aromatherapy mentors” and “aromatherapy influencers”, we can change the tide to encourage and empower with education, certification and thorough understanding. Thanks, Salvatore, for shedding light on this important topic.

To get certified in aromatherapy, check out our certification programs. We also have a reference book available – JennScents Holistic Aromatherapy Comprehensive Guide.

Additional blogs to Aromatherapy Responsibly:

Disclaimers: Information provided is for educational purposes only and is not intended to treat, diagnose, cure or prescribe. It is recommended that if serious health issues exist, you consult a licensed medical provider. JennScents does not assume liability or responsibility for the use and/or misuse of this information.

References: This blog contains excerpts from JennScents Aromaversity Certification Courses and the JennScents Holistic Aromatherapy Comprehensive Guide.

Awesome Essential Oil Safety book by Robert Tisserand – Essential Oil Safety: A Guide for Health Professionals

1 thought on “Aromatherapy & Essential Oil Safety Practices”

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top